GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Wrecking Crew

There was a time when I endeavored to spend as much time on film and television sets as possible so I could observe directors, actors and production teams at work. I was quite successful at this and at one point secured some minor bit of work on a Dean Martin film, The Wrecking Crew, that would be shooting for a few days on location in Palm Springs. This film would turn out to be the last in the Matt Helm series--a sort of James Bond knock-off that didn't take itself very seriously. I was told to report to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway whose cable cars carried passengers 8500 feet above the desert floor to the top of Mount San Jacinto.

Normally, the cast and crew of a production are mandated by union rules to be transported to and from locations by the transportation department, which is to say the Teamsters. In this instance, I was granted an exception. While I wanted to make the trip in my recently acquired GTO, it was undergoing a complete engine rebuild and I drove to the location in a Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso instead. It was a fun, high speed drive out from Los Angeles and the crew had already been shooting when I arrived at mid-day.

The cable car delivered me to the top of the mountain and I was able to observe the flurry of activity that is a movie set. Half of the people were working diligently, the other half waiting for them to finish so they could go to work. One of those waiting was a beautiful woman, one of the film's leading ladies. I remember her sitting in her 'director's' chair that had her name printed across the back. I hadn't heard of her but she was something special. As I recall, she was wearing a pink outfit and pillbox hat that Jackie Onassis would have worn. Though she was not in the scene that was being set up, she chose not to withdraw to some private area and hide herself away. Sitting there in the middle of all the activity she was apart but not aloof. It also seemed to me that she enjoyed being there; much of this industry going on around her was ultimately setting the stage for her. She was an extraordinary woman who radiated a sense of serenity. Her name was Sharon Tate.

Throughout the rest of the day, I took notice of another blond woman on the set. She was getting a lot of notice and attention from cast and crew alike. One after another, the males on the set made their pilgrimage to flirt with and hit on her. From my vantage point, nobody seemed to have scored any points but the parade continued and it kept things interesting to see who would try next and to anticipate the result.

When we wrapped for the day, a bus took most of the cast and crew down the hill to our hotel in Palm Springs. I left somewhat later but blew past the bus as it was about half way down the tortuous road. Later, when everyone had been delivered to the hotel, I found myself checking in at the counter next to the mystery blond who had been getting so much attention all day. As we were being given our room keys, I asked her if she liked Chinese food. She smiled and told me she loved Chinese food. "How soon can you be ready?" I asked. She told me to collect her in twenty minutes and held up her room key for me to see the number. As she walked away, I became aware that many of the men who had made their attempts with her that day had just witnessed what had happened. She was almost twice my age and I don't think they appreciated that a teenager had succeeded where they had not. C'est la guerre.

As it happened, she really did like Chinese food. I think she liked the Lusso, too. After dinner, we sat by the hotel pool talking for what seemed hours. Later, she took me by the hand and we left the pool and the small talk behind.

Every experience I've had on a movie set was incredible. This one was, perhaps, the most memorable and a landmark for me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


well written account and magical -Sharon Tate holy cow!

chad g